December 24, 2017 Fourth Sunday of Advent

[by Barbara Shanahan]

2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16; Psalm 89:2-3,4-5,27,29; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

What happens to us when God makes promises and they don’t seem to materialize? Or we pray and what we earnestly seek isn’t happening? Could it be that our expectation of how things should play out does not match up with God’s plan for us. Our vision is a rather narrow sliver of the possibilities that are within God’s full range of vision. We mostly want God to act in ways that make sense to us. Do we forget God is God and impose on God our human limitations?

Did David have to learn this? His plan to build a temple is a noble gesture, clearly his heart is in the right place, but God does not see it that way. God did not want David’s work as much as he wanted David’s acceptance of God’s plan. So with us, God looks for our trust and faithfulness. We have to listen at times to God’s revised and improved plan for our life.

Such was the situation Israel finds itself in when the promises made to David and the royal descendants seemed to have come to an end. There are no more royal descendants to sit on the throne after the Exile! But, if God made a promise, it is unthinkable that God would not remain faithful to that covenant! “I will establish his descendants forever, and his throne as lasting as the days of heaven.” (Ps 89:30) So Israel keeps watching, keeping alive their hope and unable to imagine the promise detached from its historical past.

The problem is that God’s promises often break the boundaries of our expectations. Israel did not recognize what God was doing in Jesus. Nothing about his life t within royal expectations. God does not color inside the lines or think inside the box! God tells us in Isaiah: “Remember not the things of the past…See I am doing something new! Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19) So if we are to understand some of the signi cance of the mission entrusted to Jesus, we need to be able to connect him with this great promise made to David and how Jesus’ mission will be a promise kept beyond imagining in Christ. The New Testament writers are always guiding us along this way of thinking by associating Jesus with Davidic remembrances, titles and descriptions that connect his mission with these covenant promise. It is not so much a matter of biological descent as it is of the fulfillment of a promise and the completion of a mission.

In the Gospel we hear proclaimed today, this link is stated loud and clear: “The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever”. The titles and names used by the gospel writers are very important in establishing the identity of Jesus. Remember, this was not so well de ned at the time of Mark’s writing. We have the bene t of 2000 years of re ecting on how Jesus ts into God’s plan of salvation.

St Paul speaks of “…the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages”. On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the eve of Christmas, our hearts rejoice in this revelation that echoes within us from some realm beforetime.

The mysteries we celebrate and remember are not about searching for answers and being satisfied with these, but more about being lost in the ageless questions that invite us into this mystery kept secret but also about to be revealed in Christ.

About Anthony Marshall

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